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AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ:AVAV) Q2 2024 Earnings Call Transcript

AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ:AVAV) Q2 2024 Earnings Call Transcript December 5, 2023

AeroVironment, Inc. beats earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $0.97, expectations were $0.67.

Operator: Good day, and thank you for standing by. Welcome to AeroVironment's Fiscal Year 2024 Second Quarter Conference Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. After the speakers' presentation, there will be a question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] Please be advised that today's conference is being recorded. I would now like to hand the conference over to your speaker today, Jonah Teeter-Balin. Please go ahead, sir.

Jonah Teeter-Balin: Thanks, and good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to AeroVironment's fiscal year 2024 second quarter earnings call. This is Jonah Teeter-Balin, Senior Director of Corporate Development and Investor Relations. Before we begin, please note that certain information presented on this call contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements involve many risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from our expectations. Further information on these risks and uncertainties is contained in the company's 10-K and other filings with the SEC. In particular, in the risk factors and forward-looking statements portions of such filings.

Copies are available from the SEC, on the AeroVironment website at, or from our Investor Relations team. This afternoon, we also filed a slide presentation with our earnings release and posted the presentation to the Investors section of our website under events and presentations. The content of this conference call contains time-sensitive information that is accurate only as of today, December 5, 2023. The company undertakes no obligation to make any revision to any forward-looking statements contained in our remarks today or to update them to reflect events or circumstances occurring after this conference call. Joining me today from AeroVironment are Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Wahid Nawabi; and Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Kevin McDonnell.

We will now begin with remarks from Wahid Nawabi. Wahid?

Wahid Nawabi: Thank you, Jonah. Welcome everyone to our fiscal year 2024 second quarter earnings conference call. I'll start by summarizing our performance and recent achievements, after which Kevin will review our financial results in detail. I will then provide information about our outlook including our increased revenue projections for the remainder of fiscal year 2024. Kevin, Jonah and I will then take your questions. I'm pleased to report that our second quarter results once again exceeded expectations and we remain on track for our best year ever. Our key messages, which are also included on Slide number 3 of our earnings presentation are as follows. First, second quarter revenue rose to $180.8 million, up 62% year-over-year, representing a record Q2 for AeroVironment.

We also posted very strong bottom line results powered by record demand, strong operating execution and effective supply chain management. Second, we have a healthy backlog of $487 million, which is higher than the start of our fiscal year and provides solid visibility for the quarters ahead. Third, on our last call, we announced our intention to acquire privately held Tomahawk Robotics, which we successfully completed in September. As I will review in a moment, we are well on our way to fully integrate the two businesses, while leveraging our combined technology across our portfolio. And fourth, we are updating guidance including an increase to our revenue target, reflecting our strong performance and the impact from the Tomahawk acquisition.

Overall, we're very pleased with our performance through the first half of this fiscal year, which included significant topline revenue acceleration and record EBITDA. We remain optimistic about our future exemplified by higher growth, improving operating results and enhanced value creation for our shareholders. As we said last quarter, this reflects not only near-term demand dynamics related to global complex but also a long-term shift in military strategy to the more frequent use of intelligent multi-domain Unmanned Systems which are either use, highly effective and provide a compelling value proposition. Our differentiated portfolio offers the greatest breadth and depth of unmanned solutions to meet the growing demands of our country and allies.

We are an industry leader in contested environment as well as AI-enabled autonomous operations and governments around the globe are witnessing these unmatched capabilities effectively perform on real and highly contested battlefields. As a testament to the incredible effectiveness of our innovative solutions, we now have nine different unmanned platforms deployed in Ukraine, all receiving high levels of praise. We could not be prouder and more honored of how our solutions and team members are helping our customers successfully achieve their vital missions. We're also pleased with our progress on fully integrating Tomahawk Robotics into our existing business. As a reminder, Tomahawk now part of our Unmanned Systems segment is a leader in AI-enabled robotic common control systems and open standard communications.

As a company, we are increasing interconnectivity and interoperability across our portfolio, making it easier for our customers to successfully manage their growing fleet of Unmanned Systems. We have already received positive feedback from our customers and intend to leverage this combination to better support their current and future missions. We now offer an unmatched capability to integrate unmanned platforms across multiple domains while providing a common operating picture for the warfighter. For all the reasons just mentioned, we remain confident in our ability to deliver strong value to our stakeholders in fiscal year 2024. We expect that our cutting-edge solutions will be at the forefront of government decision-making for years to come.

Now let me provide an update on current developments within our segments. Starting with our Unmanned Systems segment, revenue more than doubled year-over-year. Shipments during the quarter continued to reflect strong demand across nearly all our product lines with significant growth in our Puma and JUMP 20 systems. We have nearly completed delivering all the Puma LE and Puma 3 AE systems which were part of last year's large Ukraine FMS order. We have received additional follow-on orders for Ukraine, which we expect to fulfill later this fiscal year. A portion of these new orders for Ukraine are direct commercial sales to the government of Ukraine. This is another testament to the battle-proven and industry-leading capabilities of our Puma system.

We also began delivering the initial batch of JUMP 20 systems to Ukraine as part of our previously announced $42 million award under the Ukraine Security Assistance initiative. We remain confident that the JUMP 20 system is also the most capable solution and its class, and expect additional shipments to Ukraine and the third and fourth quarters. Additionally, it is important to highlight two recent successful tests of the JUMP 20. First, we successfully demonstrated a fully autonomous flight at the U.S. Navy's hybrid fleet campaign in QS, Florida. During the exercise, we showcased the JUMP 20's ability to launch and recover from a vessel moving more than 20 knots without user intervention. Second, our teams supported the U.S. Army and several allies at their Arcane Thunder exercise in Poland.

This event held in September utilized several of our systems as part of a demonstration of the army's modernization initiatives. The customer response to the JUMP 20 has been very positive and we plan to continue investing in this platform to meet our customers' future needs. In summary, segment growth this quarter was due to record deliveries overseas and the demand for our system is expanding. There are multiple potential orders in the pipeline, which are not yet reflected in our backlog. The global trends we discussed previously, plus our healthy pipeline of opportunities provide even more reason to be optimistic about our Unmanned Systems segment for the remainder of fiscal year 2024 and beyond. Moving to our Loitering Munitions segment, as anticipated, this quarter's revenue was approximately flat year-over-year.

Our shipments are meeting expectations and we continue to build inventory in anticipation of the numerous opportunities and our growing pipeline. Namely, we're expanding sales to allied countries across the globe, continuing shipments to Ukraine backfilling U.S. stockpiles and pursuing future DoD programs of record. We're actively in negotiations with the U.S. government to secure a large multi-year sole-source IDIQ contract for Loitering Munitions products, which will meet the substantial U.S. DoD and international allies demand. There's also proposed legislation in Congress to continue supporting Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, which includes additional funding for Switchblade. We continue to make progress with new international customers. We're currently engaged with more than 20 countries who wish to receive Switchblades.

And about a third of those cases are actively in the U.S. DoD's export approval process. At the same time, we've responded to multiple U.S. DoD customer RFPs for multi-year programs of record acquisitions this past quarter. These include the U.S. Marine Corps solicitation for its organic precision fires or OPF program and the U.S. Army's low altitudes stocking and strike coordinates for LASSO program. The U.S. Army recently stated that AeroVironment will receive a sole source contract to provide 100 Switchblade 600s for LASSO increment one for testing and fielding. We're optimistic about the future of this program due to the incredible real world performance of our Switchblades and our significant high volume manufacturing capacity. We're also working on integrating Switchblades onto other vehicle platforms such as Abrams tanks, Humvees, the next-generation optionally manned Fighting Vehicles and on helicopters through the Long Range Precision Munition program.

To summarize, the LMS pipeline is robust with many opportunities not yet reflected in our backlog and we remain optimistic about the future growth potential of this business. We expect the LMS segment to be a stronger contributor of revenue growth in the second half of this fiscal year. Moving to our MacCready Works segment. Quarterly revenue was also roughly in line with last fiscal year, as this segment continues to focus on developing key technologies and incubating future digital solutions. Our HAPS team continues to make progress on the development of a full-scale next-generation Sunglider while also working with the U.S. DoD on defense missions. We expect to benefit from additional funding perhaps and the government fiscal year 2024 budget, which is awaiting approval by Congress.

In addition, we continue to see strong engagement in developing novel next-generation defense solutions. Last quarter, we spoke about DARPA's ancillary program where we have now been awarded a small contract for Phase 1 of its development. We're also progressing on a jointly funded program under development by the U.S. Army's Combat Capabilities Development Command or DEVCOM in Natick, Massachusetts called the Squad Operations Advanced Resupply or SOAR. This large autonomous unmanned aircraft system will provide long-range precision delivery within contested environments. Flight testing of the first system is currently underway and we expect Phase 3 development to be funded by the government fiscal year 2024 budget as well. As you can see, we have many exciting and innovative development projects in our MacCready Works pipeline and remain excited about the potential to develop new capabilities, which could lead to new lines of business from this segment.

A rocket on its way to the sky, representing the power of the company's unmanned aircraft systems.
A rocket on its way to the sky, representing the power of the company's unmanned aircraft systems.

With that, I would like to now turn the call over to Kevin McDonnell for a review of the quarterly financials. Kevin?

Kevin McDonnell: Thank you, Wahid. Today, I'll be reviewing the highlights of our second quarter performance, during which I will occasionally refer to both our press release and earnings presentation available on our website. Overall, we had another outstanding financial quarter as the second quarter finished strong in terms of revenue, adjusted gross margins and adjusted EBITDA, and backlog. As Wahid mentioned in his remarks, revenue for the second quarter of fiscal 2024 was $180.8 million, an increase of 62% as compared to the $111.6 million for the second quarter of fiscal 2023. Slide 5 of the earnings presentation provides a breakdown of revenue by segment for the quarter. Our largest segment during the quarter was Unmanned Systems, UMS, which is a combination of our small UAS, Medium UAS, UGV and recently added Tomahawk businesses.

UMS had revenue of $132.8 million in the quarter, which is up 115% from last year's $61.6 million driven primarily by strong international demand for our Puma systems. As Wahid mentioned, we began -- we also began shipments of the JUMP 20 product to Ukraine during the quarter, which contributed to the revenue growth. Loitering Munitions Systems or LMS recorded revenue of $30.2 million, a 3% decrease as compared to the $31.1 million last year during Q2. The Switchblade 600 product was a primary driver of revenue during the quarter. And at the same time, we are beginning to ramp up the production of the Switchblade 300 Block 20 product, which was introduced earlier this year. Revenue from our MacCready Works segment came in at $17.8 million, a decrease of 6% as compared to the $18.8 million from the second quarter of last fiscal year.

We continue to see strong demand for machine learning and autonomy capabilities with various agencies of the U.S. DoD and U.S. government agencies, which was offset by lower SoftBank-funded HAPS revenue. In Slide 5 of the earnings presentation, there is a breakdown between product and service revenue. Specifically during the second quarter, product revenue accounted for 81% of total revenues, a notable increase from the 56% in the corresponding quarter of the previous year due to strong product revenue from small UAS and to a lesser extent from lower COCO service operations. For the remainder of fiscal 2024, although, we expect product revenue to be close to 80% of total revenue, we also expect LMS revenue to increase as a percentage of product revenue.

LMS revenues had lower gross margins relative to small UAS products, so we expect a shift to reduced product gross margins. Speaking of gross margins, Slide 6 of the earnings presentation shows the trend of adjusted product and service gross margins, while Slide 12 reconciles the GAAP gross margins to adjusted gross margins, which excludes intangible amortization expense and other non-cash purchase accounting items. In the second quarter, consolidated GAAP gross margins finished at 42% up from 23% in the previous year. The improvement in GAAP gross margins was largely a result of improved product service mix and strong product gross margins from international small UAS. Second quarter adjusted gross margins reached 43% marking a substantial increase from the 27% recorded in the same period last year.

This improvement was driven by the same factors as for the GAAP gross margins. Adjusted product gross margin for the quarter were 47% versus 38% in the second quarter of last fiscal year, due to the high mix of international revenue from our Small UAS products during the quarter. In terms of adjusted service gross margins, the second quarter was at 28% versus 12% in the same quarter last year. Last year, we had accelerated depreciation on a portion of our assets was negatively impacted our service gross margins. We expect fiscal year 2024 adjusted gross margins to end up in the high '30s to low '40s following the anticipated increase in Loitering Munitions Systems revenue in the second half of the fiscal year, both in terms of dollars and percentage of total revenues.

In terms of adjusted EBITDA, Slide 18 -- Slide 13 of our earnings presentation shows a reconciliation of the GAAP net income to adjusted EBITDA. In the second quarter of fiscal 2024, adjusted EBITDA was $40 million representing an increase of $33 million as compared to the $7 million from the second quarter of last fiscal year. The main factors contributing to this increase were higher revenue and favorable revenue mix, which was partially offset by incremental SG&A expenses and investments in R&D. SG&A expense excluding intangible amortization and acquisition-related expense for the second quarter was $26 million or 14% of revenue compared to $19 million or 17% of revenue in the prior year. While R&D expense increased year-over-year in terms of dollar terms, R&D expense as a percentage of revenue was 12% versus 15% in the corresponding quarter of last year.

We expect R&D to continue to run closer to 12% for the full year as we continue to invest in new products and upgrades to existing products to meet the evolving needs of our customers. This also includes internal funding of our HAPS solar aircraft. Now turning to GAAP earnings. In the second quarter, the company generated net income of $17.8 million versus a net loss of $6.7 million recorded in the same period last year. The increase in net income of $24.5 million can be attributed to several factors, namely $49.5 million increase in gross margin, driven by a rise in sales volume and improvements in revenue mix and $2.9 million decrease to intangible amortization and other acquisition-related expenses were partially offset by $11.6 million increase in taxes, $6.7 million increase in SG&A expense, $5.4 million increase in R&D spending, and $3.8 million increase in unrealized losses in equity related investments.

Slide 10 shows the reconciliation of GAAP and adjusted or non-GAAP diluted EPS. The company posted adjusted earnings per share -- diluted per share of $0.97 for the second quarter of fiscal 2024 versus a $0.01 per diluted share for the second quarter of fiscal 2023. Turning to our balance sheet. Total cash and investments at the end of the quarter was $121.5 million, which is a decrease of $6.9 million from the second quarter of fiscal 2023. During the quarter, we reduced our term debt by $50 million to $80 million. Inventories increased $6 million during the second quarter of fiscal 2024, primarily driven by the Tomahawk acquisition. Inventories remain at these higher levels as we prepare for shipments in coming quarters and extra -- carry extra inventory as a result of supply chain risk minimization.

We continue to have a strong balance sheet with over $100 million of cash and investments, and approximately $100 million available under our working capital facility. I'd like to conclude with some highlights of our backlog metrics. Slide 8 of the earnings presentation provides a summary of our current fiscal 2024 visibility. As Wahid mentioned, our funded backlog at the end of the second quarter of fiscal 2024 finished at $487 million. Visibility to the midpoint of our revised FY '24 revenue guidance range is 98%. Now, I'd like to turn things back to Wahid.

Wahid Nawabi: Thanks, Kevin. Given our strong quarter performance and the addition of Tomahawk Robotics, we have revised our guidance and increased revenue outlook for fiscal year 2024 as follows. We anticipate revenues of $685 million to $705 million. Net income guidance of $45 million to $51 million or $1.66 to $1.90 per diluted share. This decrease reflects Tomahawk acquisition-related expenses. Non-GAAP adjusted EBITDA of $119 million to $127 million and non-GAAP earnings of $2.46 to $2.70 per diluted share. We expect unevenly distributed second-half revenue split between each of the remaining two quarters of this fiscal year. Based on our record first-half performance and a strong backlog, we now have almost full visibility to the midpoint of our revised revenue guidance.

And as expected, gross margin for the second half of this fiscal year is anticipated to be lower than first half primarily due to product mix. Lastly, while the situation in Washington has led to slower decision-making, we know our solutions are crucial to our customers in the U.S. and around the world. While operating under a continuing resolution slows down new program starts, we remain optimistic that budget priorities will be resolved and that our programs will eventually get funded. We hope that our supporters on both sides of the aisle can achieve consensus in the very near future. We are very pleased with our position midway through the fiscal year as we continue to meet the needs of our growing customers. The trends we see now represent an inflection point in our growth, which should drive greater demand beyond our current fiscal year.

As I've stated in the past, our nation and allies are realizing the immense value proposition of our distributed autonomous Unmanned Solutions enabled by AI. We expect strong growth even when the act of conflicts wind down as there will be still an underlying need for deterrence with many new programs supporting further adoption of our innovative and battle-tested solutions. We continue to lead the industry in contested environment operations, autonomous missions and true Loitering Munitions capability. AeroVironment solutions can identify threats, track them in real-time and neutralize them with maximum effectiveness while minimizing collateral damage. We will continue to invest in our innovative solutions to ensure they meet our customers' exacting standards and perform when needed in real-world environments.

Now let me once again summarize the key points from today's call. First, we delivered record second quarter results exceeding expectations and raised our revenue outlook for fiscal year 2024. Second, our backlog remains strong reflecting global demand for our innovative and combat-proven solutions. Third, we successfully completed the Tomahawk Robotics acquisition and are on track for onboarding this business into our Unmanned Systems segment. And fourth, the outlook for AeroVironment solutions continues to improve due to the strength of our product lines and accelerating global demand. We're well prepared to execute in the second half of this fiscal year and now expect further double-digit top-line growth in fiscal year 2025. Before turning the call over for -- to questions, we're excited to welcome retired General Joseph Votel to our Board of Directors.

General Votel brings extensive knowledge of today's military operations and strategy, especially with Joint Special Operations Command or JSOC and Central Command or CENTCOM. His guidance will be instrumental in helping AV meet the current and future needs of our country and allies abroad. And finally, thank you to our investors for their unwavering support of our mission, and thank you to our customers for putting their faith in AeroVironment. Our success is due to the talent of our team who go above and beyond to continuously improve our products, strive for new innovative solutions, effectively manage the company's supply chain and meet our customers' needs in a timely and expeditious manner. We are honored to support our country and allies at this critical time and we expect further success during the remainder of fiscal year 2024 and beyond.

And with that, Kevin, Jonah and I will now take your questions.

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